Building a controller for MMOs

It’s a simple fact of gaming that controllers are more suited for shooters, while the WASD + mouse control of the PC gaming master race is more suited for real-time strategy games and MMOs. [Gabriel] wanted to challenge this idea, so he put together a controller combining the best of a mouse and keyboard for some hand-held RTS and MMO action.

The Keyball Controller as [Gabe] calls it is an amazing amalgamation of a 3rd party XBox and PS3 controllers, an SNES controller, a trackball, two USB keyboards and a ton of Bondo. The front of the Keyball features a WASD D-pad, scroll wheel, trackball, tiny keyboard and a few other commonly used buttons. The rear of the controller is loaded down with tons of trigger buttons and a few meta buttons that alter the function of other buttons.

The fabrication of the controller is absolutely phenomenal and certainly something that deserves to be copied. We’ve seen some controllers duplicated with a silicone mold and resin, so we can only hope that [Gabe] is looking at RTV silicone at the moment.

Comments

  1. Iskuri says:

    Since when were shooters better suited for controllers?

    • Geancarlo says:

      AAAAAMMEEEENNNNNNnNNNnN. LOL

    • Chuck says:

      Keyboard and mouse are the best? Sorry, no. Keyboard and trackball make for the best controller combo for everything but button-masher games.

      I do like the finished product, though. Looks very slick and professional. The spaghetti wiring is a nice touch… proper hack job. I hope the builder vented the fumes from burning all that plastic. Good work!

    • Eridal says:

      I was wondering the same thing. I’ve yet to play a shooter yet that was “better” with a controller unless it was specifically designed to hamper keyboard + mouse controls. Xbox360 gamers really need to get off the drugs it’s rotting their brains.

    • HackerSpawn says:

      I almost choked when it said that controllers are better suited for shooters. Keyboard and mouse are about 30 times better than any standard console controller.

      The only game type that does better with the default controller of consoles are racing games and some flight games. This is easily remedied with a PC joystick.

      Seriously HaD, get it together.

    • HackerSpawn says:

      I accidentally hit report comment on your comment Iskuri. HaD, please ignore that flag.

  2. LoveMHz says:

    While it’s an awesome build… I do wonder why he did not simple go with an Xbox360 controller and the chatpad add-on.

    • Aaron says:

      Always preferable to build a tool which fits your hand exactly. (Besides, as an MMO player, he’s obviously got plenty of time to kill…)

      Super neat hack, nonetheless — especially the apparently very high quality of fit & finish, which is extremely rare to see in something built by hand. Well done!

    • MS3FGX says:

      That was my first thought as well. A whole lot of work to essentially replicate the 360 controller with Chatpad.

      Guess he really likes the trackball.

  3. dilonymous says:

    Sorry, but the first sentence of this post is just plain wrong.

    • Cabe says:

      Yep, the PC Gaming master-races controller of choice is superior to everything for everything with the exception of 2 genres, Racing and Flying.*

      *The less said about Sega Bass Fishing the better.

      • dude says:

        Don’t forget fighting games. You could never be able to play Street Fighter with a keyboard and mouse. Unless of course someone invented a new control scheme for those games. Maybe gesture based mouse swirls for moves. idk.

      • Dax says:

        Or you could just use both hands on the keyboard.

        Don’t remember playing Mortal Kombat on the PC with -both- players on the same keyboard?

    • Aaron says:

      Sure is. You might just as well say that a Trackpoint (keyboard nipple) is more suited than a touchpad to controlling a mouse pointer.

      • MrTaco says:

        That’s because it is.

      • Dax says:

        Does your trackpoint do multitouch to emulate the scroll wheel and left/middle/right click & drag, or do you kinda awkwardly have to push the buttons with your left index finger while moving the mouse with your right?

      • Nardella says:

        @Dax
        I not sure that Iunderstand your question.
        Track Points have three buttons operated comfortably with your thumb while you use your index finger to operate the track point. Pressing and holding the middle button allows for very easy scrolling, possibly superior to a scroll wheel.

        Drag and drop on a trackpoint is vastly superior to that of a trackpad.

        What is multitouch on a trackpad for?

    • rautiocination says:

      AMEN, unless he meant shoot’em ups (doubtful).

      there is a reason there are no cross platform PC/console first person shooters: the mouse and keyboard players would wipe the floor with any other control device.

    • M4CGYV3R says:

      I think he was saying that controllers are better for shooters than controllers are for RTS/MMO type games…much like how fail it was trying to play Command and Conquer on my XBox with that gamepad. I don’t believe he meant it as “controllers are better for shooters than another controller”.

      If not, it is completely incorrect. The mouse alone has far more precision and speed than any controller, and if you need more buttons than a keyboard offers you are just being crazy.

  4. raiderj says:

    With the new Arduino it should make controller builds like this one much easier to build and customize.

    Also, I don’t know how anyone can play shooters on a console. Mouse + Keyboard beat Analog Sticks any day of the week.

  5. PantsPositive says:

    It’s a simple fact of gaming that controllers are more suited for shooters, while the WASD + mouse control of the PC gaming master race is more suited for real-time strategy games and MMOs.

    I think the console controllers are better for action/adventure games while PCs are better for shooters/RTSs. Still, cool build. I can certainly appreciate a multiplatform controller.

  6. Chad says:

    Wow.. first sentence could not be anymore contradictory. Joysticks make sensitive aiming so bad that handicaps have to be programmed into the software to ‘help’ you aim. The difference is so bad that you can tell the difference between players with joysticks and those without joysticks. Players with joysticks make exaggerated motions either plainly up and down or right and left, like they’re playing with an etch a sketch.

  7. Ziddan says:

    Nice build and i wouldnt mind having something like that if i played MMOs or RTSes from my couch but as i play mostly fps or 3ps games ill stick to my mouse and keyboard because those are the best controls for any game that needs precision aiming.

    The only games that benefit from different ways of controlling as said earlier are racing games and flying games.

    I dont play shooters as in side scrolling flying or top down and blasting things ala gradius but from what my enthusiast friends tell me the 8, 16 and 32 bit consoles had the best controllers for that.

  8. Rhalla says:

    I must agree w/ other readers. Keys + mouse over a controller any day w/ exception of racing or flying…. sports/ fighters maybe also? (i don’t play many sports games on PC)

    However, these sentiments do not detract from the fact that this is a good build with a good write-up.

  9. dude says:

    This is a quintessential “hack”. I love it. He could have easily done this with a micro controller. Instead he chose to hack together other more functional things together to make the ultimate pc gamepad. He could have made his own trackball part but he chose to use a better functioning pre-made trackball and hack it to his controller. The only downside to this is that it is a one off that would need almost as much work to make another. Makes me very jealous.

  10. dufentech says:

    Hi, creator here, thanks for the compliments everyone!
    Not sure about the title, since I actually built this mainly for FPS/3rd person games (about all I play). My friend is the one who likes to use it for WoW and Terra.
    I grew up using a Logitech trackball, and they work great for shooters once you get past the learning curve. The tiny size of the trackball (1”) is about the size of an analog stick, so it doesn’t feel all that different. Its like analog stick that just keeps on going. Works far, far better than analog stick aiming for shooters. Once you get accustomed to it, it’s just as accurate as a regular mouse. Fer shizzle.

    @LoveMHz: I wanted to use a 360 pad, but the smaller shape of the 360 pad does not fit the trackballvery well (it kinda deep). I found the slightly thicker Xbox S controller to be much more comfortable, and fit the parts I had to use much better as well.
    Also, the 360 chatpad does not have 100% working drivers yet, and I wanted to keep this a ”plug and play” thing just like a console.

    And if you guys like this one, check the first version as well

    http://dufentech.com/keyball-controller/

  11. LordNothing says:

    as awesome as it is im one of those people who absolutely has to use either a full fledged joystick (i use a ch fighterstick), or wasd+mouse. there is no middle ground for me.

  12. m1ndtr1p says:

    The keyboard + mouse combo is MUCH better than a controller for shooters… It’s not even remotely close.

  13. Galane says:

    Saitek made a device some years ago called the PC Dash.

    The original version connected between the PS/2 port and the keyboard. It had two ways to program it, via the keyboard port (I assume by pulsing the Num/Scroll/Caps lock lights) or by printing out barcodes to be scanned by the device’s built in scanner.

    Windows NT/2000/XP blocked the ability to program it via the PS/2 port so Saitek discontinued it. Spelunking around their FTP site is the only way to get the software and the printable overlays and code sheets. AFAIK the software for creating your own codes and printing them will work on NT/2000/XP so you can still use an original PC Dash.

    To replace that version Saitek introduced a USB version, minus the built in scanner. It programs only through the USB interface. This version has also been discontinued.

    Either version of the PC Dash is highly useful for games and for any other program that uses many keyboard functions. Multi-key combos can be assigned to a single button so something like a command in Photoshop that requires pressing four keys can be assigned to a single PC Dash button.

    Another gizmo that’s a boon to games with a ton of commands is the Microsoft Strategic Commander. It’s like a 3-axis mouse. It’s spring loaded to return to center, can be slid left/right/front/back plus twisted. It also has several programmable buttons plus shift buttons for multiple functions for each of the other buttons.

    From Microsoft’s website you’d never know they ever made the thing. Good luck digging up the drivers if you find one to buy.

    Combined with the Microsoft Trackball Optical 1.0 (another piece of orphaned MS hardware) the Strategic commander makes for a killer gaming control system, as long as your trackball is taken care of or you replace the steel ball support balls with silicon carbide. Yup, in a fit of cheapness, Microsoft used steel bearing points which the crud a trackball gathers will eventually wear flat spots on, causing the thumb ball to drag on the back of its socket like a artificial hip joint gone bad. There are people doing the silicon carbide bearing replacement, charging up to $60 to fix up your ailing MSTO1.0.

  14. somedude says:

    For those that just want a controller like this premade, the AlphaGrip ( http://www.alphagrips.com/ ) has the same functionality, but with a very different keyboard layout and smaller trackball. I don’t own one, or work for them, but I’ve thought of getting one from time to time.

  15. pezz says:

    do you guys not understand that its not about whats better for pin point accuracy, its about whats most comfy. i am actually wishing to find one of these types of controllers for laying back on my couch and playing my favorite MMO. we all know the best MMOs are not on consoles and i dont always feel like hunching over my keyboard and mouse this is a GREAT alternate to that. i love the design and thought you put into this.

    • dufentech says:

      Thanks, it actually took quite a few hours… or days, hard to tell, ha! But after making a hardcore wired -for_FPS- PC version, I am working on a new universal gaming PC keyball controller V3. It’s good, I promise that. It might be slightly complicated, but it will be worth it. And god I hope sombody copies the design, cause I don’t have the money to start-er-up, ha ha.

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